The late Jeff Cooper described a scout rifle as “a general-purpose rifle [that] is a conveniently portable, individually operated firearm, capable of striking a single decisive blow, on a live target of up to 200 kilos in weight, at any distance at which the operator can shoot with the precision necessary to place a shot in a vital area of the target.” Some of the basic requirements are a maximum unloaded weight of 3.5 kg (3 kg optimal), an overall length of 1 meter or less, a Ching sling, a forward mounted scope, a .308Winchester / 7.62mm NATO chamber, and auxiliary iron sights (optional). In my opinion these characteristics lend themselves to a SHTF scenario. The rifle would be light enough to always be carried, yet powerful enough to be used for defense or hunting. Also as a bolt action it would be reliable and accurate. It also would not call as much attention to you as a semi-auto battle rifle.
Nowadays, several manufacturers make scout rifle variants. Some of the most popular are the Steyr Scout, the Savage 10FCM, and the Ruger M77 Frontier rifle. The problem is that these rifles cost in excess of $2000, $675, and $750 respectively. This places them out of the range of many gun buyers. The great news is that there is an alternative. If you have at least some modest gunsmithing skills, then why not build your own?
The first thing to do would be to find a starter rifle. Since you want a cheap rifle, I would suggest trying to buy a used hunting rifle or looking at the surplus market. A good Israeli Mauser (.308) would be a great starting point and there are plenty of aftermarket Mauser parts. If necessary, a 7mm Mauser would also work. Another option is the Enfield Ishapore 2A. This is the option that I chose due to its availability at my local gun shop, its reliable and fast action, its 10 round [detachable] magazine capacity, and its ability to be loaded from 5 round stripper clips. Another bonus for using the Enfield is that a “Shooter’s Special” version is now available from AIM Surplus for $99.95. Since we will be replacing the stock and cutting and re-crowning the barrel, some drawbacks of the ‚ÄúShooter‚Äôs Special‚Äù will not be an issue. Although the procedures below were performed on the Enfield, most could be universally applied.
After you have chosen your rifle, the next step would be to clean it thoroughly and then test fire it. This way you can return it if there is a problem. There is no point investing the time and effort into a faulty rifle.
If you are satisfied with the performance of the rifle, then proceed to the disassembly phase. The Surplus Rifle web site has excellent “walk through” procedures on how to do this. Make note of any damaged parts and order replacements from Gun Parts Corporation (Numrich), or a similar company. I would suggest at least getting another extractor spring, extractor (if available), firing pin, firing pin spring, a new magazine, and a firing pin removal tool. These are not requirements, but having these spare parts would be invaluable if the supply suddenly dried up. The extractor spring is probably the most important since if the rifle was stored with the bolt closed the spring could have lost some of its function causing the extractor not to grip the rim properly resulting in very poor extraction. As far as magazines go, the new manufacture magazine I got from Numrich worked decently, but the new ProMag ones were terrible. Something else to note is that about 80% of the small parts in a Ishapore Enfield 2A are compatible with the Enfield No 1 Mk 3 parts.
After the rifle is disassembled, proceed to remove the barrel mounted rear sight assembly. On my rifle, this assembly was fastened with a screw under the slider bar and a pin on the side through the barrel. It would be a good idea to clean the area around the assembly with acetone (or fingernail polish remover) to remove the enamel paint and gunk. I had to use a torch to heat the assembly enough to knock it loose.
With the sight assembly gone it is time to tackle the barrel. According to Tac Ops,, a .308 20″ barrel will result in complete powder burn, full velocity, and full accuracy, while an 18″ barrel loses slightly in velocity while accuracy remains the same. I decided the 18″ barrel would be worth the trade off. Mark where the cut will be made, secure the barrel in a vise, and proceed carefully with a hacksaw. After the cut is done, stuff a cleaning patch down the barrel (starting from the receiver) to prevent further metal shavings from getting into the barrel and receiver. Use a file to smooth out your cut and get it as close to straight as possible. The better you do here, the easier the next step will be.
To finish the muzzle you will need to crown it. You could take it to a gunsmith, buy the crowning tools from Brownell’s, or use WECSOG skills and a little creativity. I chose to buy the Brownell’s tools and they worked rather well. I had to sand down the .308 pilot a little to get it to fit, but other than that there were no issues. Use plenty of thread cutting oil or similar and go slowly, cleaning the tool often and clearing any metal shavings from the barrel.
Enfields come with a little magazine loop on the trigger guard where a chain used to hold the magazine to the gun. This was from the days when commanders feared their soldiers would misplace their only magazine. I cut this off with a Dremel as it is no longer needed and it looks cleaner without it.
Before you proceed you must refinish the rifle as you see fit. For me, this meant cleaning, sandblasting, degreasing, and finishing with Gun Kote.
After the rifle is refinished, you can attach the scout scope mount. I chose the XS Sight Systems mount due to looks and robustness. To attach this mount, degrease both the barrel and the scope mount, attach the mount with JB Weld, make sure the Weaver rail is aligned with the receiver, and let it dry. After the JB Weld is dry, use Brownell’s Acraglas or similar to fill any voids between the mount and the barrel.
The final step is to fit the stock. I used an ATI Enfield Stock, and it worked pretty well. Some work needed to be done to make room for the scope mount. I used a Dremel tool with a sanding drum tip and checked for fit constantly. At this point you could also glass bed the stock, add a third sling swivel ahead of the trigger guard for a Ching Sling, and clean up excess plastic around the seams. A handy thing about the ATI stock is that the butt is hollow, so you can remove the plastic butt plate and store survival items inside (fishing line and hooks, matches, para cord, etc.). To allow easy access, I bought a Limb Saver slip-on recoil pad and slipped it directly over the open stock.
A scope with intermediate eye relief will be needed once you have a completed rifle. My preferred scope is the Leupold FX-II 2.5 x 28mm IER SCOUT.
A Ching Sling is also a nice option, although a normal sling can certainly be used. The only officially licensed manufacturer of a nylon version of the Ching Sling is The Wilderness.
Now not only do you have a versatile survival rifle for around $300 to $400, but you also have the practical gunsmithing experience from doing the project yourself, which could prove invaluable when the SHTF.